As you enter the hall of Al-Mashtal Stadium in Gaza City, it is good to see boys doing karate. You will be surprised to learn, though, that the youngsters are all blind.
Karate is a very popular sport in the Gaza Strip, the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem. There are many championships every year across Palestine.
The idea of involving visually-impaired and blind people in karate came from Captain Hassan Al-Ra’ei. Speaking to MEMO, he said that he suggested the idea to the administration of the club and it was approved.
“We started with five youngsters,” said Hassan. “It was a very strange idea and it looked impossible at first glance, but when the five achieved yellow belt status the families of other blind boys were encouraged to bring them to join in.”
Karate is beneficial for the blind, insisted Hassan. “Blind people have limited access to entertainment facilities and always feel lonely. However, being involved in this rigorous sport, they become more involved in the social life at the club and mix more with others.”
His message to stakeholders and organisations working with the visually impaired and blind is that they should support karate as much as possible, as well as those who get involved.
In closing, Hassan said that he is planning to start new training courses for blind ladies in the same club, but he stressed that this needs much effort and external support.
Images by MEMO Photographer Mohamed Asad.